Thursday, April 28, 2011

Wild Ponies of Grayson Highlands Challenge Painting #97

  The Wild Ponies of Grayson Highlands is a herd of feral ponies, mostly of Shetland pony descent, employed to live upon the Forestry Service and State Park lands surrounding Mt Rogers in Virginia.
9 by 12 inch Watercolor
by LindaLMartinArtist
One of the people who are documenting these feral ponies is Amy Flood, a professional photographer, who has love and passion for the ponies as well as professionalism in documenting their habitat, their behavior and their lives. This documentation includes  the impact of how frequent visitors to the park affects the herd behavior and dynamics.  Today 's painting is of the lead mare Amy calls " Freedom"
As do many who document of wild animals, she names them and keeps a running record of her sightings of them.  The names are for her purposes. When the  ponies are collected from the Highlands by The management organization, The Wilburn Ridge Pony Association and are auctioned, the high bid adopters have final say on their new pony's forever name.

Photo doumentors, like Amy, will often join up and share information on the herds they watch so there is not duplication in documentation, but rather they verify each other's sightings and anticdotes.  Management organizations will also keep their information and sometimes share names ages and other information with the horse or herd watchers in order to better manage the horses or in this case ponies  in their care. 

Freedom Standing in the snow surrounded
 by  the thorny hawthorn she and her herd
are employed to graze.
Photo by Amy Flood. Used by permission.

The Sand Wash Basin Wild Horse Club is one such group. They are loosely associated horsemen and women, who are together in their common cause of preserving and documenting the Sand Wash Basin HMA Wild Horses. As of this writing there are a number of photographers that share information, confirm sightings and share educational information with the Larger group through their facebook page. The Sand Wash Basin Wild Horses Club has over 2400 people on facebook that follow the horses.
On Amy Flood's Facebook page for the Grayson Highland Ponies there are over 800 fans who watch  her documenting efforts and the lives of the ponies. And the numbers are growing.
There is one basic difference between the feral ponies of  Grayson Highlands and the Mustangs on public lands. Mustangs are considered nothing more than mutt horses or ferals by some, because through the years more and more highly bred horses have been abandonded to run with them. Yet after 500 years mustangs and Colonial mustangs( on the east coast)  are truly wild and share common gene markers of the spanish iberian horses.

Freedom and her foal Elam. This photo
and reference photos for the panting
were provided by Amy Flood
and used bypermission.

Basicly, as wild horses, no one holds title to them until they are adopted  through what ever managing entity offers them for sale.  Wild horses and burros in the United States are also protected by Federal law, as a National Living Treasure of our country's history. The Highland Ponies, on the other hand, have been specifically allowed to go wild; however, they are owned and are employed for a specific job. 
Their is no doubt that the presense of these wild ponies on the Grayson Highlands enriches the lives of every visitor when they come to participate in park activities.
About the Mare Freedom. In Amy's Words:

"I was formally introduced to Freedom on May 25th 2010 - the day she gave birth to a little long-legged colt we called "Elam". Over the next few months, we watched as Elam grew, and thrived in his small family band. His sire, Cortez was an excellent band stallion - attentive and protective. Freedom was the lead mare, dictating where they grazed and roamed.

But in September of 2010, things changed. Not just Elam, but also Cortez were both gathered and sold at auction. In the absence of a band stallion, Freedom suddenly became the sole leader. "

Freedom (foreground) In the high country of The Grayson Highlands State Park
 in Virginia. The state park and the adjacent National Forrest are open
year around for pony watching and a number of other open air activities.
Photo by Amy Flood. Used by permssion.

To read more about these ponies  and their history  you can read the the Mustang A Day Challeng News blog with addtional links to the Grayson Highlands State Park and follow Amy's visits and photography on her blog

For more information on the Grayson Highlands State Park Pony AuctionThe Wilburn Ridge Pony Association holds an auction at 2:00 PM on the Saturday following the 4th full week in September. The auction is part of the Grayson Highlands Fall Fest. All auctioned ponies have passed veterinary examination and testing, and the proceeds from their purchase goes toward sustaining the pony herd and local charities. For further information call:

Contact Information
Primary Contact: Grayson Highlands State Park
Phone: 276-579-7092
829 Grayson Highland Lane
Mouth of Wilson, VA 24363

Web Address:
Blogger's Note: Wild Horses (and ponies)  do not actually have names in the wild. Those that observe and document them do so because it makes it easier to keep track of them. When a wild horse is adopted the new owner is free to name that horse any name they wish. The exception is that some wild herds managed by non-profits do keep registration to track the horses  through out their lifetime. BLM horses are given a number which is humanely freeze branded on their neck. Once the horses are titled they are no longer tracked. However the brands are useful in making sure that the horse is titled and discovering or confirming which state the horse was born in.  Updated 2/24/2014

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